Making Paris Work for Vulnerable Populations


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After more than twenty years of climate negotiations, the Paris Agreement (PA) rightly marks a historic milestone. It has three overarching objectives: to limit global warming well below two degrees Celsius, or, if possible, to 1.5 degrees Celsius; to achieve climate resilience for all people and ecosystems; and to shift financial flows to zero emission and climate-resilient development pathways. If it is ambitiously implemented, the agreement will frame and facilitate a transformation towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience. Moreover, the agreement will deeply affect the personal, interpersonal, socio-economic and political spheres, driven, as it is, by the aspiration to avoid the disastrous level of climate change that is posing major threats to humankind in this century. Furthermore, the agreement will create synergies in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the goals set out in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

However, although the Paris Agreement was unanimously agreed by all states, a great deal remains to be done. This study takes stock of the opportunities and challenges that exist in making Paris work for vulnerable populations in order to close the climate risk gap, a risk that prevents so many people from enjoying their human rights and living in dignity. Marginalised and poor people are likely to face the greatest challenges due to climate change. Climate change first has an impact on people who live in areas that are most sensitive to climate risks – and people living in poverty in particular. Depending on where they live and their ability to cope with different climate hazards, the impact of climate change exacerbates existing vulnerabilities.

This study is based on an analysis of human rights elements in the context of climate adaptation and risk management. It not only aims to identify shortcomings, but primarily intends to make political discourse innovative by demonstrating the potential of a human rightsbased approach in the broader context of a transformational theory of change. This applies to both international and national policies and actions leading to the climate resilience of people’s livelihoods, and economies. This study develops key assessment criteria that are then employed in the subsequent chapters. These are used to identify what needs to be done in order to make the Paris Agreement work for the vulnerable in terms of modalities, procedures and substance.

This assessment of the Paris Agreement and other global flagship initiatives results in an overview of what needs to happen in the years to come – and how we envisage changes taking place, e.g. regarding the future adaptation framework, the Warsaw International Mechanism on loss and damage, climate-induced migration, the Green Climate Fund and InsuResilience. The study then moves from a global framework to the level of national implementation. Our analysis of developing countries’ “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (the national climate action plans) and “National Adaptation Plans” is indicative of significant ambitions to make economies climate-resilient. They also include a strong nexus with food security, disaster risk reduction and other issues, which are also of key importance for the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, they also demonstrate that a top-down approach continues to prevail. This approach is not particularly people-centred, pays little attention to stakeholder participation, and does not always systematically identify the most vulnerable population. These and other shortcomings in the implementation of adaptation policies are illustrated by country cases that also include good practices; this is particularly the case with Nepal.

The study concludes with recommendations on how to address these gaps, again arguing for the inclusion of human rights in international adaptation support and capacity-building programs where these issues still do not play the role they deserve.

Finally, conclusions and recommendations sum up the key findings and our proposals on developing innovative solutions to climate adaptation and risk reduction with the aim of moving these issues forwards towards transformative pathways.

  • Publisher: Bread for the World

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